By: Natalie Van Dyke/GCU Staff
Trailing at halftime in all three games, the Grand Canyon University Women’s Club Soccer teams started their 2019 seasons with a 3-2 win, a 4-0 defeat and a 2-2 tie this past weekend. The Lopes got a taste of what their competition will look like this season in their new league, the Arizona Women’s Soccer League, opening against local opponents Arizona Christian University and Ottawa University.
Friday: GCU Purple 2, Arizona Christian 2
GCU Purple officially broke the seal on the program’s season Friday night at Colter Fields on the GCU campus with a come-from-behind 2-2 draw with Arizona Christian University.
Just two weeks into the school year, the Lopes brought together a group of new players for their first test. There weren’t many scoring opportunities for GCU in the first half, since they remained in their own half of the field for the majority of the first 45 minutes. That gave the Firestorm several opportunities, and they capitalized for a 2-0 lead at halftime.
“We made a few mistakes early, but we were able to make adjustments at halftime,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Hannah Bolton. “We executed well defensively, which ultimately led to our goals. We looked for mistakes, and capitalized on their turnovers with counter attacks.”
In the 60th minute, Lopes’ transfer Lexi Baca won a ball played out of the box on a counter attack and found the back of the net to cut ACU’s lead to just one goal. Another big defensive stop by the Lopes in the 80th minute sent the ball into ACU’s half where Baca won the ball, sped past several ACU defenders and score her second unassisted goal to tie the game, and finish the scoring for the night.
Saturday: Ottawa Reserves 4, GCU White 0
A quick turnaround had Bolton back on the pitch at 7 am the next morning in Surprise to lead GCU White against Ottawa University’s reserve team. With only three players returning to the team from last year, the young Lopes fell to the experienced Spirit, 4-0.
“We played our returners most of the night on Friday,” said Bolton. “Saturday’s lineup consisted of players who have never played at the collegiate level, or who have never even played soccer before.”
The Lopes allowed two goals by Ottawa in the first half, and attempts to adjust the lineup and game plan at halftime wouldn’t be enough to keep Ottawa from scoring twice more in the second half.
“It’s a double-edged sword.” said Bolton on having only three returners on the squad. “They’re the only three who know the system and how college soccer is, but they understand the program well, and are the best teammates I could ask to lead this program. Now (the team) gets a chance to figure out their kinks, and figure out who can be a leader on that team”
Monday: GCU Purple 3, Ottawa Reserves 2
After a tie and a loss on the weekend for the program, GCU Purple looked for a win to cap their first weekend of league play. The Lopes hosted the Spirit of Ottawa University’s reserves at Prescott field on Monday night.
Learning from the weekend’s mistakes, GCU Purple came out Monday night at Prescott Field with a new understanding of the required level of play, and took a 1-0 lead over Ottawa University’s reserves with a goal in the fourth minute. Ottawa’s attempt to clear the ball from the penalty box was stopped by Lopes’ sophomore Gabrielle McGaughey, who drilled the ball into the back of the net.
Ottawa tied the match in the 10th minute on a penalty kick after GCU was called for an infraction at the top of the box. The Spirit then capitalized on a corner kick in the 40th minute by scoring on a loose ball at the top of the box off a deflection from Lopes’ goalkeeper Alyssa Kuhn to take a 2-1 lead into halftime.
“They caught us by surprise,” said Bolton “They train five days a week and we’ve had about three hours of practice this season, but we were able to figure out changes we needed to make for the second half.”
Ana Barajas started in goal for the Lopes in the second half, and held the Spirit scoreless, allowing the Lopes to get even in the 52nd minute. GCU freshman Kaitlyn Halverson connected with a pass between two defenders from Hannah Rowlands, who made her way past a defender and scored a far post goal to tie the score. Less than three minutes later, McGaughey set up Halverson for her second goal of the night to put the Lopes ahead for good.
“Tonight highlighted our grit and determination,” said Bolton. “The girls proved they can execute defensively and did what they needed to. I’m proud of this win.”
“We already see a huge turnaround in how we are playing as a team and communicating,” said McGaughey. “We want to create a championship environment on this team with the idea that playing is not a chore, but something we all want.”
The Lopes return to the pitch again this weekend. GCU Purple plays the Lumberjacks of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff on Saturday, Sept. 14, and GCU White will host ACU on Friday, Sept. 13 (7 pm at Colter Fields) and Ottawa on Sunday, Sept. 15 (noon at Prescott Field). Admission to all home matches is FREE.